3. Saints and Sinners in The Medieval Church

By the time of the High Middle Ages, influenced by increasing urbanization and greater familiarity with more homoerotic Muslim civilization, the earlier moderate opposition and grudging toleration of same sex love softened to a more open tolerance, with some remarkable monastic love letters with homoerotic imagery (St AnselmSt Alcuin), a celebration of same sex intimacy in St Aelred of Rielvaulx’s work on Spiritual Friendship, more erotic poetry, and acceptance of open sexual relationships even for prominent bishops (Ralph of Tours, John of OrleansRoger de Pont L’Évêque) and abbots – especially if they had suitable royal collections. Marbod of RiennesBaudri of Bourgeuil, a “Spanish Monk“, and other medieval clerics, like Walafrid Strabo (c. 808-849), Notker Balbulus (c. 840-912), Salamo (c. 860-920) were others from this period who left a legacy of homoerotic literature.

It was also a time of powerful women in the church, as abbesses who sometimes even had authority over their local bishops. (Hildegonde of Neuss, Saint Walpurga).

Hildegard of Bingen

However, the increase in open sexual relationships among some monastic groups also led to a reaction, with some theologians starting to agitate for much harsher penalties against “sodomites”, especially among the clergy (St Peter Damian, Alan of Lille). Initially, these pleas for a harsher, anti-homosexual regime met with limited support – but bore fruit a couple of centuries later, with disastrous effects which were felt right through to the present day – and especially the twentieth century.

Recognized Saints:

St Anselm

St Alcuin

St Aelred of Rielvaulx

Other Bishops and Popes

Ralph of Tours

John of Orleans;

Roger de Pont L’Évêque

Marbod of Riennes,

Baudri of Bourgeuil,

a “Spanish Monk“,

and other medieval clerics, like

Walafrid Strabo (c. 808-849),

Notker Balbulus (c. 840-912),

Salamo (c. 860-920)

Powerful Women

Hildegonde of Neuss

Saint Walpurga.

Hildegard of Bingen

Julian of Norwich

Resistance Begins

St Peter Damian, 

Alan of Lille


Gay King Wenceslas (d. 935)

Ss Boris & George (d. 1015)

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